leaf blowers zero air pollution
research regarding leaf blower laws
 

Possible Health Consequences of Fugitive Dust Drift

Possible Health Consequences of Emissions and Fuel Spills

Possible Health Consequences of Noise

Behavioral Expectancies

Quality of Life

About 6 printed pages.

 


Possible Health Consequences

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See the four-minute Video and we recommend you see the in-depth Health section.
 
A report by the California Air Resources Board (“ARB”) states:


“Potential health effects from exhaust emissions, fugitive dust, and noise range from mild to serious.” and,

“For exhaust emissions, the number of people
potentially impacted is as high as the population of the state, differing within air basins.” (ARB Report). 

Blowers create an illusion of usefulness


Fugitive Dust Drift
“Leaf” blowers distribute debris and Particulate Matter (“PM”) for long distances.  PM consists, in part, of fine dust particles, dried bird and other animal feces, pesticides, insecticides and other chemicals, street dirt that can contain lead and carbon, and allergens such as molds, pollen, and animal dander.  PM is particularly harmful to children, the elderly, and those with cardio vascular and pulmonary problems, including asthma.  Once airborne, there is no way to contain PM. 
 
“The medical literature shows that . . . airborne particulate matter affect[s] lung function, and that chronic exposure to air pollutants can impair lung function permanently.”  (Source) 
 
Road dust contains lead at highly toxic levels and up to 20 known allergens.  In residential areas of L.A., road dust contributed 5-12% of the allergens in the air. (ARB Source p. 24) and ("Danger: Road Dust" by Henry Fountain) 

Blowers often redistribute this road dust, especially when used in or near gutters and on streets.
Emissions and Fuel Spills
Due to stricter emission standards, manufacturers have reduced CO emissions, even further than required by the standards.  A mandated use of California Reformulated Gasoline reduced the amount of benzene in gasoline, and general engine emissions have been reduced by 70% since 1990.  But, these are still higher than the 1986 recommendations for a “healthy” level.
 
The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued a report blaming leaf blowers for “spewing 5.6 tons of hydrocarbon emissions per day into the region” of Los Angeles.  Gasoline Lawn Edgers, which also use two-stroke engines, are responsible for 7.6 tons and lawn mowers are responsible for 7.4 tons per day."(96.11.1)  “. . . more smog comes from California’s homes than from commonly cited sources such as oil refineries and service stations.. . . By themselves, gasoline-powered lawnmowers, leaf blowers and other utility tools emit a significant amount of VCOs—more than all the aircraft in the South Coast . . . millions of gallons of fuel are spilled a year while home gardeners are refueling their lawn mowers and leaf blowers”. (97.12.1)  In a 1993 South Coast Air Basin emissions inventory, lawn and garden equipment (including lawnmowers, edgers, trimmers, leaf blowers and chain saws) produced about “14 tons per day of VOC, 0.5 tons per day of NOx, and 108 tons per day of CO emissions.” (97.6.4).
 
The Air Resources Board Report explains that “Exhaust emissions from leaf blowers consist of the following specific pollutants of concern: hydrocarbons from both burned and unburned fuel, and which combine with other gases in the atmosphere to form ozone; carbon monoxide; fine particulate matter; and other toxic air contaminants in the unburned fuel, including benzene, 1,3-butadiene, acetaldehyde, and formaldehyde.” (Source)
 
“Carbon monoxide is a product of incomplete combustion and can be a hazard,”  stated a representative for the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, (98.3.4)  The Environmental Protection Agency says lawn & garden equipment produce 6.8 million tons of ozone & carbon monoxide annually. (98.7.1)  “On days when ozone concentrations were above the federal standard of .12 parts per million . . . there were 30% more asthma attacks. . .” (91.12.1)
 
John Dunlap, Chair of the California Air Resources Board (CARB), is quoted as pointing out, regarding non-road engines, that “manufacturers sometimes claim this equipment’s contribution to air pollution is so small that it’s a waste of time and money to control . . . Motor vehicles account for about half of California’s air emissions.  The rest comes from many small sources, many of which have groups arguing they are too insignificant to regulate.  But ignoring these smaller sources means ignoring a significant segment of California’s emissions problem.” (98.3.4 p.17)  And, we note that California also has strict regulations regarding vehicle emissions.
 
Gasoline two-stroke engines, also used for motor boats and Jet Skis, contaminate “. . .with carcinogenic benzene and toluene. . . .A by-product of burning oil is polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, one of the principal carcinogens found in cigarette smoke. . . .The amount of unburnt oil these stinkers put into our lakes, rivers and drinking-water reservoirs every year is 15 times what the Exxon Valdez spilled” according to the Sierra Club (98.1.1).  Blowers are putting this same pollution into the air of our neighborhoods.
Noise

Noise Free America provides information on health effects of noise through their website and their Ask the Expert, a psychology professor who will also help mediate noise-related disputes.

“The most frequent complaint Americans make about their neighborhoods is noise “ (98.3.6)  
 
In a press interview, Stanford’s Science, Technology and Society Program professor and chairman Robert McGinn, referenced studies that showed “. . .noise levels in the United States hurt the physical, psychological, cognitive and emotional well-being of people” (98.2.10)
 
“There’s little doubt that noise makes some people aggressive and less able to handle frustration, . . .” and “Excessive noise has an effect on gastrointestinal functions.  It can cause blood pressure to rise, and can cause severe headaches.  Obviously, it can make some individuals very nervous.”  (01.6.2)
 
Manufacturers of blowers are aiming for a maximum of 65 dB, by ANSI standards, measured at a distance of 50 feet.  They claim this is “conversation level”, but don’t point out that it is loud conversation level.  Few people would like even a normal conversation going on next to their bed while they try to sleep; next to their desk while they try to work; or next to an open window while they try to put a child down for a nap.  All of these activities are common in a residential neighborhood.
 
The Sierra Club Hawaii Chapter wrote to their Department of Health,  “The rules should be expanded to include “commercial and landscaping activities.” and “The section on ‘Noise prohibited’ should also be amended:  No person shall operate nor shall its owner permit the operation of an on-site vehicle, leaf blower, construction equipment, or device, with a motor or exhaust system or both, without a muffler.”

Behavioral Expectancies:
Psychological Mood – Basic Human Needs:
 
Silence is one of the basic human needs.  It can assist in reaching a state of relaxation, which, in turn, leads to invigoration.  It promotes meditation and contemplation, which can lead to enlightenment.  All of these can lead to contentment. (Source)
 
“Certain negative factors may seriously affect moods, attitudes and eventual response to the environment” including distress, frustration, fatigue, anger. (Source)  These are reactions many people have to the use of leaf blowers on properties other than their own, and where they have no control.
 
Studies indicate people living or working in noisy areas are less helpful to those in need, have far fewer friends than those in quieter areas, and have more social conflicts. (Source).  Noise makes it even more difficult for the hearing impaired to distinguish words.  It may also cause them discomfort or pain.
 
Blower users, themselves, are most at risk for hearing loss.  Along with properly fitted safety equipment such as respirator face masks and wrap-around goggles, adequate ear protection is recommended by all responsible manufacturers of blowers. 
 
Due to resistance to their use, noise restrictions and bans, a few manufacturers have lowered decibel levels to as low as 65dB.  Besides engine noise, including pitch and frequency, air velocity noise must be considered, along with frequency of exposure for bystanders.  At speeds up to 9,000 revolutions per minute, backpack blowers can be much louder than a much larger automobile engine.(98.1.12)  Manufacturers expect that redesigned air intake systems will reduced the high pitched whine.  One quarter of the population has an extreme sensitivity to high-pitched noises, which trigger the nervous system’s startle response, and uncontrollable  “fight or flight” feelings and physical reactions result.(98.11.1).  Small children have been observed taking flight, right into the center of a street, startled by the sudden or unexpected start up or acceleration of blowers. 
 
However, noise levels are measured at a 50-foot distance from the machine under testing conditions which may not relate to the configuration of brick and stucco houses located just five feet from cement walls that is common in Los Angeles neighborhoods.  (Communication & Noise dB Levels)
 
The 65 dB promoted by blower supporters as being “only normal conversation level” is considered a loud conversation by sound experts. To those who are not a part of this "conversation," it is disruptive.  Recognized as a serious problem, where airplane noise levels within the flight path reach 65 decibels as shown by continuous monitoring equipment near Los Angeles Airport, homeowners are eligible for soundproof funding. 
Quality of Life

According to an industry magazine article, this concern has “been gathering momentum for 20 years” and “become national in scope and can no longer be ignored.”  Blower problems are now so common that they are even making their way into “popular culture”, such as newspaper political cartoons and television situation comedy and  television reports.  The industry is worried that the future will bring time and location restrictions or bans on “string trimmers, hedge trimmers and any other 2-cycle powered equipment.”(98.2.4)  This may be why industry forces gathered together to fight, first, the Los Angeles ban, then at the California State level to attempt to revoke all locally-enacted bans.  They attempted to set state noise levels, from which no lower level could be required by local municipalities.
 
The issue, to some, is the inability to use whatever tool they choose, wherever they choose to use it, and the possibility of economic change, which, if not managed well, would affect their quality of life.  Blower supporters ask “why pick on blowers?” and suggest that mowers are even more noisy.  Though lawn edgers and chain saws may have the same two-stroke engine as blowers, and lawn mowers are just as loud or louder, and responsible for slightly more hydrocarbon emissions per day than blowers, these machines do not produce the same amount of fugitive dust.  They are not likely to be used for as long a time in a specific period of time, and they are not used on wide expanses of hardscape.  While rakes and brooms can do the work of all blowers, and there are options for non-polluting mowers, the edger tasks would seem to be much more difficult to perform in any other way.  We recommend electric lawn edgers. ZAP is interested in hearing from any experts in this regard.
 
To others, the issue is the inconsiderate, inappropriate, unnecessary use of loud, polluting machines.  This includes the problems of noise, air quality, physical and mental health.  These are serious quality of life issues.  Where the quality of life declines, those who can, move.  Those who can’t or don’t choose to move, either work for legislation or become angry and frustrated.  Formerly friendly neighborhoods have tensions not only among inhabitants themselves, but between residents and landscape workers.  Blowers are not used in Japan, where many are designed and parts are made, because they are “distressful”. (98.5.1) 
 
Noise News (p.35 of 36) points out that use of blowers is an “irony: for the sake of a tidy front yard, homeowners will shatter the peace of an entire neighborhood.  Noise is garbage and we should be as careful about where we put it as we are about where we throw our candy wrappers.  More.  Noise is more hurtful than litter.” And, “Noise is an affliction, suffered by people who have no part in creating it.  The air into which noise is emitted is a ‘commons’, a public good or resource that nobody owns.” 
 
For information on “How Your Neighbors Feel” and “How others feel” about leaf blowers, go to the Manhattan Beach, California ZAP website.
 
The use of two blowers at once on residential properties is increasing.  One person’s “blower diary” shows up to eight exposure incidents near their residence in a singe day.  Another reports loud blower use on three neighboring properties one day a week, two another day, and one each day for another two days. 

Experts believed there were nearly one million blowers in California in 1999, and half of those were used in Los Angeles (99.10.2)
 
As the frequency of exposure has risen, so has resistance to blower use.  Restrictions on noise exist in townships and cities across the nation.  More and more of these municipalities are specifically identifying lawn and garden equipment, including blowers, as contributors to noise problems.